You will usually have to write a motivation letter only when you have not been accepted by a particular university, but you may also be offered a place on a Master’s degree at a different university, or in another country.
Some people do not write a motivation letter and instead apply for a programme on the strength of the content of their application or CV. However, if you are unsuccessful in this approach, your application should still be up to scratch and strong enough to make an impact on the university’s recruitment process.
Some of the benefits of writing a motivation letter include:
A personal story.
People want to hear about why you are applying to their university or graduate programme.
Giving your personal experience of the life that you lead, the path that you have taken and the challenges you have faced.
In the university’s eyes, your motivation letter is an opportunity to gain insight into the person you are and the characteristics that make you stand out. The inclusion of your motivation letter may be one of the factors that helps you to stand out.
Listening to yourself
Research shows that students are more likely to write a motivation letter if they trust that they are being judged fairly. A peer group or mentor who encourages them to write one.
In an ideal world, all university students would write a motivation letter to gain an entrance interview spot. However, not all students are able to follow their inspiration and be willing to take the risk. We suggest that you choose a school or programme where you are likely to gain an entrance interview spot and that you write a motivation letter, as opposed to applying to many programmes at the same time.
How to write a motivation letter
Write your motivation letter based on your application.
If you already have a personal statement that includes the experience you have that you want to share in a motivation letter, then use it. Write your motivation letter according to the structure of your application. For example, if your application includes a section about your hobbies, then include it in the motivation letter.
Your personal experience should be able to explain the degree and graduate programme that you are applying for. You should find it easy to talk about your passion, so focus on what you are interested in rather than giving a detailed account of your everyday life.
Consider why you are interested in the programme or graduate programme.
If you do not feel confident writing a motivating letter, you can choose to write a more general one about the type of person you are and the values that are important to you. This motivation letter will still be a powerful addition to your application.
Questions to ask yourself
- Consider the questions that you might need to answer in your motivation letter:
- How did you get interested in the programme/graduate programme that you are applying for?
- How do you think the programme will benefit your life?
- Are you able to see yourself in the programme?
- What are your own personal learning goals for the programme?
- What do you expect from the course?
- What are you looking for in a graduate programme?
- Is there anything that you want to see at the graduate programme that you are applying for?
- What can you learn from the experience of others who have applied to the same graduate programme?
Once you have written your motivation letter, review it. It is important that you are satisfied with the format and your wording. For example, there may be differences in the length of your personal statement compared to your motivation letter.
Your motivation letter should not be the first draft of your personal statement, and it should not be too long, because if it is too long, your friends and family will be less likely to read it. The first draft of your personal statement is more likely to be as personal as it can be without being too personal.
Consider your motivation letter as one part of your application, alongside your personal statement and your work experience. Include the motivation letter in your personal statement so that it can be brought up at interview stages.
Since you have written your motivation letter, take the time to organize your application: you will need it when it comes to writing your personal statement. Write a new letter and add the motivation letter to your application. If you need to add new information that you previously put into your personal statement, then repeat this process, cutting out what you have written so far.
Wishing you success in applying to graduate programmes!